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A Skills Gap? Or a Communication Gap? How Digital Badges Can Be a Bridge

June 17, 2015

Almost everyone in the field of education is familiar with the tongue-in-cheek quip, “Hey, Cs Get Degrees!”

While some college students may be comforted by this concept, the rest of us cringe at the idea of having stiches removed, teeth cleaned, or costly insurance claims coded by someone who merely learned enough just to get by. In response to this problem, there has been a growing demand for better evidence of a college graduate’s knowledge and skills, oftentimes independent of grades.

The career college sector responded to this growing demand by publishing institutional outcomes, student outcomes, and a plethora of evidence around their students’ job readiness. The only problem with this evidence is that it is in the language of academia and takes the form of transcripts, which are not easily understood by employers. The result has been a communication gap in which college graduates find it difficult to communicate their qualifications to employers and employers have trouble finding candidates that they believe are qualified for open positions.

Proliferation of Credentials

Job seekers and employers have expressed a desire for better ways to bridge this communication gap, and, in response, educational institutions and organizations have developed various credentials intended to provide more user-friendly evidence of a graduate’s job readiness. Credentials are now more prolific than ever before, and the numbers and types of certifications, diplomas, and degrees has risen to epic proportions.

Given the fact that credentialing has become a growth industry, the market has become somewhat decentralized. My assessment of this microcredential market has led me to conclude that digital competency badges are the strongest credential currently available to job seekers who wish to showcase their employability on an individual competency level.

Says who?

In recent discussions with school leaders from around the country on the topic of digital badges, I have often fielded the following questions: “Who authorizes the digital badges? How do we know which badges to use at our school?”

My answer to these questions is always the same: if the goal of the badge is to showcase job readiness, then the ultimate authority regarding which badges are appropriate is the potential employer. In this era of gainful employment and placement verification, career colleges that demonstrate their quality through employer-approved badges can expect major benefits. From improving job placement rates to increasing word of mouth student referrals, bridging the communication gap with digital badges has almost limitless potential.

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